Coronavirus edition 56: DocYard’s ‘Choice,’ stretched-out superheroes and ‘Tina’ doc
Film Ahead is a weekly column highlighting special events and repertory programming for the discerning Camberville filmgoer.
Local and virtual
The 37th Wicked Queer: Boston’s LGBTQ+ Film Festival arrives April 1 virtually (it screens normally at the Brattle Theatre). The program of 27 features and 17 shorts packages runs throughout the month of April. Highlights include “Leading Ladies,” Ruth Caudeli’s experimental, improvised narrative in which five woman come together to reveal truths behind long propagated lies; “Raw! Uncut! Video!,” Alex Clausen and Ryan’s White love letter to fetish porn that chronicles the rise and fall of homegrown gay porn studio Palm Drive Video in the 1970s and ’80s; “Ma Belle, My Beauty,” Marion Hill’s tale of a polyamorous trio over the year; shorts for all – seniors, BIPOC, Trans, Latinx, men, women; and of course the “GTFO” program, billed as a showcase of the outrageous, outrageous and over-the-top and coming with a viewer warning to “Maybe don’t bring your mom.”
The DocYard is running the U.S. premiere presentation of Xue Gu’s audacious debut feature feature, “The Choice,” a film that opens and ends with the same, hourlong take of a family discussing their aunt’s intensive care. The film is available through Thursday; on Wednesday Xue will join curator Abby Sun for a live filmmaker Q&A.
In Theaters and Streaming
The life and times of Tina Turner, who doesn’t get enough credit for being the musical and cultural barrier breaker she was. (If you want to know where Jagger got his moves, it was Tina.) Her early blues/gospel-infused performances, pulled from archival footage, are mesmerizing and enough in their own right to justify a watch. Those that chime in are Oprah, Angela Bassett, who played Tina in “What’s Love Got to Do With It” (1993), her children and Tina herself. The film grapples with the isolation and dark degree of abuse the singer suffered at the hands of husband Ike Turner – who died in 2007, but the children corroborate the abuse and tell even more horrific tales than what has been previously understood, and Ike in archival footage is pretty damning to himself as well – and her struggles with drugs and suicidal impulses. Still, the doc directed by Academy Award-winning filmmakers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin (“Undefeated”) plays the arc well, and navigates the highs and lows with adroit emotional impact. Streaming on HBO.
‘Quo vadis, Aria’ (2020)
Jasmila Zbanic’s taut “Quo vadis, Aida?” takes us back to the raw horror of ethnic cleansing during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1990s. Seen through the eyes of the U.N. interpreter of the title (Jasna Djuricic, fantastic), the film focuses on the small town of Srebrenica, where Bosnian refugees are being aided by U.N. forces as the Serbian army approaches. It’s a harrowing ordeal as Aida tries to arrange safe passage for her ethnic Bosnian husband and son. History would later record that the Serb army under the command of Ratko Mladić would murder and rape more than 7,000 civilians. Other western-made films such as “Welcome to Sarajevo” (1997) and Angelina Jolie’s “In the Land of Blood and Honey” (2011) have tackled the genocide-fueled conflict, but none so inwardly emotionally and intimately as Zbanic’s caught-in-the-crosshairs depiction. It’s one that truly and rightfully won’t let us forget. The film is an Academy Award nominee for Best International Feature Film. Showing at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St., Kendall Square, and streaming on Amazon Prime.
‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ (2021)
Yes bigger is better – a tiny bit – but it’s the same damn thing (for better or worse) about the three magical cubes (the Mother Boxes) needed to rule the universe, just like the the Infinity Stones in Marvel’s “Infinity War” (2018) or the rings in “Lord of the Rings.” The backstory here is that Snyder’s long cut made Warner execs nervous, and they gave screenwriter and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015) director Joss Whedon the reins to reshoot and re-edit after the death of Snyder’s 20-year-old daughter left the filmmaker understandably unconsolable and on hiatus. (Snyder’s new cut is dedicated to her.) The original filmmaker’s vision does deepen the heroes’ personal and collective stories nicely, namely for the Flash and Cyborg. At four hours it’s impressively light; it doesn’t feel as long or as overpacked as Whedon’s quick take at two hours. Reportedly Snyder wanted it to be in black and white, and another cut is coming. Funny too how much more a sociopathic rampaging Superman resonates now that we have Homelander in the Prime series “The Boys” – which came to be between the two cuts. The ending and the epilogues tacked on are considerably different and far superior. On HBO-Max.
Nicholas Jarecki – the scion of commodity brokers – tackled the dirty side of the family biz with “Arbitrage” in 2012; here he’s after big pharma and the opioid pandemic. The cast list is a potent cocktail featuring Gary Oldman (“Dark Hours,” “Mank”), Armie Hammer (“Call Me By Your Name”), Evangeline Lilly (“Lost”), Michelle Rodriguez (“Girlfight”) and Greg Kinnear (“Little Miss Sunshine”). The plot, a weave of three narratives, could have used a bit more of a clinical trial test run before release; the threads don’t all dovetail fully, and one in particular outshines the others disproportionately. The two pat chapters have Hammer as an undercover agent trying to take down an illegal blackmarket opioid ring, and Lilly as a mother out to avenge the death of a son who was hooked on the drug. The thread that’s head and shoulders more compelling than the others has Oldman as a boozy college prof who finds big pharma doing what big tobacco did, pushing an addictive product while obfuscating data and information and in short willfully creating a public heath hazard. He gets muzzled by his university higher-up (Kinnear) and threatened by corporate goons and attorneys. It’s the storyline you want to get hooked on, but guns and predictable double dealings keep numbing your cerebral sensibilities. Available on Amazon Prime, Vudu and other services.
‘The Human Voice’ (2020)
Pedro Almodóvar’s English-language debut is the third film by the Spanish director to pay homage to Jean Cocteau’s 1930 play of the same title. What we get in the 30-minute short is Tilda Swinton in a flowing red gown waiting for a lover to come to her cavernous flat and pick up his belongings, all neatly packed into suitcases. They never show, and so we get Tina venting her ire to a dog about said person who isn’t there, but is embodied by a suit laid out on the bed. What’s it all mean? It’s a meander, but this is Almodóvar (“Pain and Glory”) and Swinton (“Only Lovers Left Alive,” “Suspiria”) two of the best at their trades. The monodrama never quite gets substantial, but it is a fun watch – namely dues to Swinton’s indelible countenance. The film plays alongside Almodóvar’s 1988 classic “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” The short did not make the Academy Awards-nominated list, but you can catch all the ones that did in Kendall Square starting Thursday. Showing at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St., Kendall Square.